American Idol Results, A New Blog Segment, And Moving Ahead…

How’s it going? Hope everyone had a great time yesterday, whatever you were up to.

I watched the American Idol results show last night. For those of you who didn’t, I won’t give away the actual result–don’t worry.

It did surprise me they gave the Top 5 control of who stayed and went, at least until next week–they got the chance to stay together, and nobody would leave. But that meant two people would get kicked off the show next week.

Or they could let things play out as they normally would–whoever had the lowest number of votes had to go. But the Top 5 had to agree unanimously about what to do.

They didn’t. I would have liked to see them stick together, but things ended up playing out as normal, after all that hubbub.

The results show certainly made an impact, either way. Which is what I’ve mentioned a lot this week–making an impact.

Something I hope I’ve done (and will continue to do) with Fiction and Copy Decoded for a long time to come.

But for things to change for the better, they usually can’t stay the same.

Which is why I decided to make a new segment on the blog, out of this one thing I like to do.

Truth is, I’d been doing this constantly.

When I mentioned character, setting, plot, and even fairy tales, I did it just for fun.

Then I realized it could be a huge benefit to you all to do this on a regular basis.

Today will be the first of many Fabulous Fiction Fridays, where I’ll post a writing prompt for everyone.

I plan to post one every Friday, barring unforeseen circumstances. You’ll be able to find them under the heading “Fab Friday Prompts” (the prompts, not the circumstances).

A writing prompt. Does it really matter? Yeah, it does. I mentioned a lot of the reasons in the post here.

I think a prompt is a strange mix of curiosity, a great starting point, a brain break, and a hint of conflict/problem. One that you can do almost anything with, because it’s not so specific to nail you down to any one thing…AND it provides enough detail for a good start.

Here’s the one for today:

Inside an old box, you find a sealed envelope marked when I’m gone, written in your grandma’s handwriting. She vanished mysteriously 50 years before. Trying to keep your fingers steady, you open the envelope to find a note. What does it say?

There you go.

But I’m not going to stop there. I’ve got a feeling I wouldn’t be me if I did. After all, I have to get in on the fun, too.

And I’ve written numerous stories that started out as prompts, because I think it’s a lot cooler that way.

And the Long Ridge newsletter was a great inspiration and source of prompts for me (thank you tons, LR webmaster Mary Rosenblum!)

Let’s play What If? with Granny’s Secret Letter, a little bit. But in a minute.

Before we do that, I’d like to explore, with you, the sheer possibility for variation here.

There are a HUGE amount of things at play in any story, and changes to any ONE of them make the story different.

Really, what do we have here?

A character

Setting

Plot

Conflict/Problem to deal with

Seems simple on the surface, right? This is why I need to do more posts (there’s me on the hook for future posts again) about all four of those aspects. The truth is…

Things can get complex, fast.

What if the main character is…

A robot?

A shapeshifter?

A four-year-old?

A twenty-five-year-old robot shapeshifter?

An alien life form?

A woman?

A man?

A dog?

A cat?

Even if we were to keep the story the same in all other points, this would be a different story, agreed? Doesn’t your mind open up, when you think of all that possibility?

How about for setting? We could have:

Earth in 2446 assuming you’re reading this before that date 🙂

Venus

A robot factory

An old farmhouse

A museum in London in 1945

A planet full of bats and monkeys who understand one another perfectly

And the setting itself may or may not include other factors, like:

Geography

Politics

Religion

Transportation/Travel

Economics

Multiple Languages

Family Structure

Medicine

Law

The Arts

Poverty/Crime/Disease

Business

Entertainment/Communication

What would happen if YOUR setting eliminated one of these? Any one? And I’m sure there’s plenty more variation to all this.

We haven’t even touched plot yet.

I like to think plot is a strange collision of character, setting, and conflict. Or a character in a setting, dealing with a problem.

I personally think it’s easier when you have an idea of your character and setting to come up with a plot and a problem–being in a strange society, for example, would get problems popping out of the woodwork (if your setting has that).

Plot itself can still be a blank slate. But I think it’s the essence, the building block, of a good prompt, so here goes:

Man is robbed on the way to the grocery store, where he planned to spend his last dollar

Man with an overdrawn account at the bank gets a call from his daughter, telling him she’s pregnant

Woman going to a job interview loses her shoe down a storm drain–right after the only bus for the day pulls away from the stop.

Plots alone are not a story. Not without character and conflict.

Now, let’s address this prompt directly, about granny’s letter.

What if…

Granny is an alien (I really enjoy science fiction and fantasy twists) who went back to her native land 50 years ago, to prevent them from destroying the Earth (provided you started with an Earthling main character)?

Or Granny wants to bring knowledge of economics on Earth back to her home planet, and hasn’t returned yet?

Granny meant to warn others about YOU, and was praying you weren’t the one who would read the letter first?

Granted, some of these types of ideas have been used over and over–which is why I encourage you to add or take away different aspects to make them unique.

This is also why some online science fiction magazines publish HUGE documents that spell out the kinds of stories and plots they’ll automatically reject if you decide to send one over.

That’s it for today. Before we close out, if you’re a copywriter, or write to persuade, I’d like for you to give these fiction prompts a shot, to sharpen your storytelling skills.

Write however much you want–even if it’s only a sentence or three.

This is why writing, whether it’s fiction or copywriting (writing to persuade) mean so much to me personally: the variation, the simmering of ideas, and getting it all on screen or paper. The real impact of it–being able to do that, in and of itself.

To make real something that never existed. Did the short story form exist? Sure, but as far as my exact interpretation, only I can do that.

Just like only YOU can interpret this prompt in a way that moves you, and that matters to you.

It seems I tossed out ideas for a lot more prompts than just one. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that after this, though. Since this is the first prompt, I want to make it unlike any other, in hopes that you’ll benefit from the launch along with me.

If you’d like to drop me a comment about how writing itself has impacted your life, feel free.

And since today’s Friday, and May has barely started, make it an awesome weekend, too, okay?

Until next time,

Ty

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About Ty Mall

Thanks for stopping by. I've almost always been interested in writing, among other things. Along with discovering pop culture, I've uncovered a lot about the craft over the past 10 years. And whether you're a fiction writer or email copywriter, I'm here to pass on what I've found out. And have a ton of fun in the process.
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